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An Unbridled First-hand Account of Santa-Anna & the Texas Campaign

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382.     MARTÍNEZ CARO, Ramón. Verdadera idea de la primera campaña de Tejas y sucesos ocurridos después de la acción de San Jacinto, por D. Ramón Martínez Caro. Mexico: Imprenta de Santiago Pérez, á cargo de Agustín Sojo, Calle de Tiburcio núm 14, 1837. [i]-vii, [1, blank], [1]-162 pp. 8vo (21.4 x 13.8 cm), original green pictorial wrappers, upper wrap with typographical border and illustration of two soldiers flanking a cannon and title Primera campaña de Tejas, y sucesos ocurridos después de la acción de San Jacinto, por D.R. Martínez Caro. México: 1837. Calle de Tiburcio Núm. XIV, donde se espende; border repeated on lower wrap which has an illustration of two female allegorical figures; bound in full contemporary dark brown calf with gilt-rolled borders, gilt ornaments stamped on spine (binding appears not to be original; it seems to have been applied later along with sympathetic period endpapers watermarked Molinero; pastedowns watermarked Viaccava). Spine and joints moderately rubbed, headcap with small snag, corner bumped (some board showing), binding bowed, upper hinge starting, lower hinge open but holding, wraps with light adhesive staining in gutter margins, text block somewhat unevenly trimmed, small chip to lower wrap and last few leaves at top margin (not affecting text or border); title page a bit dusty at top right corner, otherwise the interior is very fine. Scarce in wraps. The last copy at auction was part of Sotheby’s Texas Independence sale in 2004, a lesser copy in modern morocco and lacking wraps which sold for $3,900.

     First edition, and first printing in Mexico of the secret Treaty of Velasco and other documents relating to the Texas Revolution. Andrade 3211. Basic Texas Books 138: “Eyewitness account of the Texas Revolution written by Santa-Anna’s private secretary [who] was captured at San Jacinto and imprisoned with Santa-Anna…. An insider’s view of the whole campaign, the capture at San Jacinto, the negotiations for the treaty, and life as a prisoner.” Clark, Old South III:206. Eberstadt, Texas 162:520. Fifty Texas Rarities 16: “To Texans struggling for independence, General Antonio López de Santa-Anna was a bête-noir. He was held responsible for both of the tragedies of 1836—the Fall of the Alamo and the Goliad Massacre—but his defeat at San Jacinto by inferior numbers of Texans under Sam Houston relieved some of the pain. The present book…is remarkably well documented and includes the general’s own report to the Ministry of War.” Graff 2695 & 2695. Howes C155: “In reliability as a contemporary Mexican source on the Texas Revolution, this ranks with Filisola’s memoirs.” Jones, Adventures in Americana III:999. NYPL, “Texas, 1836-1936” (Bull., February, 1937), p. 86. Palau 154865. Raines, p. 44. Sabin 10950 & 44950. Steck, Spanish Borderlands, p. 63. Streeter 923. Sutro, p. 171.

     Of the spate of polemics, narratives, histories, and apologias that were printed in Mexico following Santa-Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto, few are as enigmatic or apparently as authoritative as this one. The biggest mystery surrounding it pertains to its author. The only details known about him are those revealed in this book. Despite the fact that he was Santa-Anna’s personal secretary, was present throughout the Texas campaign, and accompanied his fallen leader to Washington and back to Mexico, he is otherwise lost to history. Some of his editorial choices are somewhat puzzling, and despite his close association with Santa-Anna, he seems to have turned totally against him in the end. For example, according to Santa-Anna, it was he who informed the Texans that Bartólome Pagés intended to help the general escape. This thwarted their plot and caused Santa-Anna to be imprisoned. Herein he also publishes the terms of the secret treaty Santa-Anna made with the Texans (among other critical documents), a revelation that could hardly have been intended to do anything but embarrass his former boss, which it clearly did. In this secret treaty, Santa-Anna promised to work for Texas independence and recognized the Rio Grande as the Texas-Mexico border, provisions that inflamed Mexico.

     Despite the obvious prejudices in Martínez Caro’s account, many consider it one of the most valuable sources on Mexico’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pacify Texas. As Jenkins comments, “One gets the feeling that Martínez Caro is telling substantially the truth even though he is betraying the trust placed in him by his employer and commander.” In his position, Martínez Caro had access to documents, orders, and other papers that would have been available only to the commander himself, and he makes liberal use of them to discredit Santa-Anna both personally and as a military commander. To these, he adds his own critical observations. Santa-Anna was apparently so fearful of his former secretary that he had him arrested and thrown into prison and his papers seized. This proved nothing but a delaying tactic, as Martínez Caro secured his release fairly promptly and the incident no doubt only further inflamed his feelings. He also had the advantage of publishing his account after Santa-Anna’s own apologia had appeared, which provided him with him even more fodder.

     One notable example of his harsh treatment of his former commander occurs in his description of the Alamo. His description makes the complex sound like nothing more than a small obstruction of no defensive value whatsoever (“especie de corral y nada mas,” p. 8). The reader, therefore, may wonder about his observation that three hundred Mexican troops were killed and a hundred more died of their wounds due to a lack of medical care [see Item 1 herein]. To justify those numbers, Santa-Anna’s report, which Martínez Caro wrote, stated that there were 600 defenders, when Martínez Caro knew that there were hardly one-third that many. In the end, Martínez Caro’s description and analysis hardly makes the Battle of the Alamo seem to be the great victory that the Napoleon of the West tried to make it. Finally, he suggests that San Jacinto was somehow a defeat inflicted from on high because of Santa-Anna’s multiple cruelties towards the Texans: “La patria, el honor, la humanidad, y las ensangrentadas sombras de tantas victimas, sacrificadas por aquel criminal descuido, claman venganza. La misma clamaban hacia ya tiempo, tantas otras que sucumbieron en el Refugio, Goliad y Alamo, tan friamente asesinadas; y quizas la Providencia, canazada ya su Divina justicia, satisfará” (p. 29).

     Despite whatever prejudices, half-truths, or distortions there are in Martínez Caro’s account, it seems that Jenkins is correct—his account still sounds very close to the truth. If nothing else, he had access to documents and communications available to nobody else but Santa-Anna and himself, and that fact alone makes his account of events preeminent.


Sold. Hammer: $4,000.00; Price Realized: $4,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts


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